In your startup, sales are everything. Not only are sales the lifeblood of your business, but they can also make or break your round when an investor is evaluating your pitch. But what is a concise definition of a sales strategy for startups?
In simple terms, sales and marketing strategy for startups is a planned and thoughtful set of actions that:
- reflects your go-to-market vision, and
- is designed to reflect your value proposition to end-users in a captivating way.
Keep in mind one thing. Since sales strategy for startups is just one essential element of the GTM engine, it also needs to be aligned with your other GTM components such as product and market vision. This powerful combo creates your ultimate go-to-market flywheel that will smash your competitors and win over lots of user love.
Let’s now delve into a deeper understanding of the key aspects behind a successful sales strategy for a startup.
Key items to consider before ideating & executing sales plan for a startup company
Prior to drawing up your sales plan and allocating resources, it’s good to understand which direction fits your company best. This direction can be determined by two factors – your growth model and your growth stage.
- The growth model is built around a set of sales methodologies and tools in order to acquire, onboard, and retain users. The two most common models for SaaS businesses are product-led and sales-led growth models. Understanding how to apply one or the other will determine the required processes and instruments for the implementation of your startup sales and marketing plan.
- The growth stage reflects your stage of business “maturity,” which in turn reflects your fundraising stage and requirements. It can be determined through the application of different indicators. Examples include revenues and margins, quantifiable evidence of product market fit, and team size. Common labels include “seed/angel” “Series A,” etc. Highlighting your growth stage will help you determine the scope of your operational resources, which then helps you understand the costs of your sales strategy.
Sales and marketing strategy for startups: best practices
Regardless of whether you are a sales-led vs product-led company, or whether you’re at Seed vs Series A stage, the following steps are vital for building a solid, scalable sales engine.
Know your end user
It goes without saying, everything you do in your product or business development is user-centric. Period. Whether you’re designing a product or a path to deliver that product, you really need to have a deep grasp of the target end user ultimately benefiting from your solutions.
Whether your user is a person or a company, you can achieve an understanding with the following three simple steps:
- identify customer groups
- define your target market
- scrutinize the competition.
Once you kick these above-mentioned elements into high gear, you’ll end up with your ideal customer profile, or ICP. The ICP is powerful in gaining an understanding of key demographic, psychographic, and behavioral aspects of your end users. You can then leverage that powerful understanding to continuously fine-tune your customer acquisition wheel.
Provide outstanding value, not just a bunch of features
Acquiring and retaining your customers is about building trust and one of the best ways to establish that trust is through emotional connection. This can be achieved in several different ways, such as running online workshops, giving free trials, or implementing a freemium business model.
In all cases, always generate tangible value without asking for anything in return. Remember that your prospects are interested in simple solution outcomes and you’ll only confuse and alienate them by dumping an avalanche of features on them. Value-focused sales have a two to three times higher chance of closing than sales based around features and functions. Make sure you can deliver value long before capturing value.
Don’t just sell. Educate!
Most people these days make informed decisions, especially when it comes to buying expensive solutions. They ask peers, check blog posts, and listen to podcasts. They consume a LOT of information, they don’t like pressure, and they’ll act only when ready.
The best way to really capture their attention is to go immediately to their problem, then explain how you can solve it, and finally illustrate how this solution benefits them.
For example, you take a content-driven approach and wrap this up in a success story which educates. Then, you can build on that by creating an amazing storytelling experience to keep your audience engaged. At the end of the day, we all love stories. Give your customers a powerful human touch that embellishes your product or service with meaning and resonance.
Ensure your backend processes are solid
While it might seem like a cool idea to dive straight into your sales activities, you’re much better off taking the time to research and strategize your targets and processes, ensuring that:
- each phase of the process is well documented, and
- as much as possible can be automated.
This is vital, so make sure you do this from the very outset. Firstly, it’s hugely beneficial transparent and streamlined experience for your team so that it keeps everyone abreast of not just your strategy, but also how well it’s being executed.
Secondly, having this documentation process allows you to keep track of what’s working and what’s not. This allows you the flexibility to iterate, refine, and improve your strategy. This will help your business become more anti-fragile as it scales.
Establish and monitor your metrics
Sales won’t scale themselves. You’ll need to set specific goals and targets that keep your team motivated and on course at each phase of your sales activities. Also make sure there’s clear ownership, accountability, and a specific deadline for each target.
Ensure your metrics are realistic and take into account your business model, ICP, and available resources when setting them. And in case you’re asking yourself what metrics you should set and how to set them, you can usually find the answer in your financial model.
No two startup sales strategies are ever the same. Likewise, your startup sales and marketing plan will evolve as you grow over time. Make sure there’s lots of flexibility and dynamism in your sales processes to ensure you can handle things as your business scales.
At the outset, the sheer range of potential sales roadmaps and journeys might be daunting, given all the possible options, factors, and scenarios. However, any powerful customer acquisition machine will have the following fundamental elements in place:
- A laser-sharp focus on the end-user
- Clear evidence of value provided – upfront
- Streamlined processes
- A data-driven approach
Irrespective of whether you focus on the B2B or B2C market of whether you are just at the beginning of your fundraising adventure or closing your Series A round, these are proven tactics that have all worked out very well for many of Waveup’s clients.